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—  City  —
The Palace of Culture

Coat of arms
Iaşi is located in Romania
Location of Iaşi within Romania (in red)
Coordinates: 47°09′25″N 27°35′25″E / 47.15694°N 27.59028°E / 47.15694; 27.59028Coordinates: 47°09′25″N 27°35′25″E / 47.15694°N 27.59028°E / 47.15694; 27.59028
Country  Romania
County Iaşi County
Status Municipality
Founded 1408 (first official record)
 - Mayor Gheorghe Nichita (Social Democrat Party (Romania))
 - City 93.9 km2 (36.3 sq mi)
 - Metro 832.2 km2 (321.3 sq mi)
Population (est. January 1, 2009[1])
 - City 308,843
 - Density 3,357/km2 (8,694.6/sq mi)
 - Metro 400,347
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
 - Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)
Postal Code 700xxx
Area code(s) +40 x32
Car Plates IS

Iaşi (Romanian pronunciation: [ˈjaʃʲ]) (also historically referred to as Iassy in French, Jassy in German or Jászvásár in Hungarian), is a city and municipality in Moldova region, in north-eastern Romania. The city was the capital of the Principality of Moldavia from 1564 to 1859, the United Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia between 1859–1862 and Romania between 1916–1918.

Called “The city on seven hills” and "The city of great loves", Iaşi represents a symbol of Romanian history about which the greatest Romanian historian Nicolae Iorga said "There should be no Romanian who does not know it".[2]

Nowadays, one of the largest Romanian cities, Iaşi is the social, economic, cultural and academic centre of the Romanian region of Moldavia.

The second largest university centre in Romania, Iaşi is home to the oldest Romanian university and accommodates over 75,000 students in 5 public and 7 private universities.[3][4] The social and cultural life gravitates around the National Theater (the oldest in Romania), the Opera House, the Iaşi State Philarmonic, the Tătăraşi Atheneum, a famous Botanical Garden (the oldest and largest in Romania), the Central University Library (the oldest in Romania), the high quality cultural centres and festivals, an array of museums, memorial houses and historical monuments.


Etymology and names

The city is historically referred to as Iaşi;

Scholars have different theories on the origin of the name "Iaşi". Some argue that the name originates with the Sarmatian tribe Iazyges (of Iranian origin), one mentioned by Ovid as "Ipse vides onerata ferox ut ducata Iasyx/ Per media Istri plaustra bubulcus aquas" and "Iazyges et Colchi Metereaque turba Getaque/ Danubii mediis vix prohibentur aquis".

A nowadays lost inscription on a Roman milestone[5] found near Osijek, Croatia by Matija Petar Katančić in the 18th century, mentions the existence of a Jassiorum municipium,[6] or Municipium Dacorum-Iassiorum from other sources.[7]

Another explanation is that the name originated from the Iranian Alanic tribe of Jassi. The Hungarian name of the city (Jászvásár) literally means "Jassic Market"; the antiquated Romanian name, Târgul Ieşilor (and the once-favoured Iaşii), may indicate the same meaning.

Oral sources say that the name may come from an archaic form of the Romanian word "to exit" because the city was an important trade node in the region.[8]


Golia Monastery

Ancient times

Archaeological investigations attest the presence of human communities on the present territory of the city and around it as far back as the prehistoric age.[7] Later settlements included those of the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture, a late Neolithic archaeological culture.

Early development

The name of the city is first officially mentioned in a document about commercial privilege granted by the Moldavian Prince (Voivode) Alexandru cel Bun to the Polish merchants of Lvov in 1408. However, as buildings older than 1408 existed and still exist (for example the Armenian Church originally believed to be built in 1395), it is believed that the city existed long before its first mentioning.

Capital of Moldavia

Around 1564, Prince Alexandru Lăpuşneanu moved the Moldavian capital from Suceava to Iaşi. Between 1561 and 1563, a school and a Lutheran church were founded by the Greek adventurer Prince, Ioan Iacob Heraclid. In 1640, Vasile Lupu established the first school in which the mother-tongue replaced Greek, and set up a printing press in the Byzantine Trei Ierarhi Church (Church of the Three Hierarchs; built 1635–39). In 1643, the first volume ever printed in Moldavia was issued in Iaşi.

The city was burned down by the Tatars in 1513, by the Ottomans in 1538, by the Imperial Russian troops in 1686. In 1734, it was hit by the plague.

Through the Peace of Iaşi, the sixth Russo-Turkish War was brought to a close in 1792. A Greek revolutionary maneuver and occupation under Alexander Ypsilanti (Αλέξανδρος Υψηλάντης) and the Filiki Eteria (Φιλική Εταιρία) (1821, at the beginning of the Greek War of Independence) led to the storming of the city by the Turks in 1822. In 1844 there was a severe conflagration.

Mid-19th to 20th century

The former Royal Court of Moldavia around 1885

Between 1564 and 1859, the city was the capital of Moldavia; then, between 1859 and 1862, both Iaşi and Bucharest were de-facto capitals of the United Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia. In 1862, when the union of the two principalities was recognized under the name of Romania, the national capital was established in Bucharest. For the loss caused to the city in 1861 by the removal of the seat of government to Bucharest the constituent assembly voted 148,150 lei to be paid in ten annual instalments, but no payment was ever made.

During World War I, Iaşi was the capital of a severely reduced Romania for two years, following the Central Powers' occupation of Bucharest on 6 December 1916. The capital was returned to Bucharest after the defeat of Imperial Germany and its allies in November 1918.

Jewish community

Avram Goldfaden's statue near the Iaşi National Theatre
The Great Synagogue, built in 1670

Iaşi also figures prominently in Jewish history. Records of Jews exist from the 16th century, and by mid-19th century, owing to widespread Russian Jewish and Galician Jewish immigration into Moldavia, the city was at least one-third Jewish. In 1855, it was the home of the first-ever Yiddish-language newspaper, Korot Haitim, and, in 1876, the site of what was arguably the first-ever professional Yiddish theater performance (see Avraham Goldfaden).

The words of HaTikvah, the national anthem of Israel, were written in Iasi by Naphtali Herz Imber.

According to the 1930 census, with a population of 34,662 (some 34%) out of the total of 102,872, Jews were the second largest ethnic group in Iaşi. There were over 127 synagogues.

After World War II, Iaşi played a prominent part in the revival of Yiddish culture in Romania, from 1949 to 1964, it was home to a second company of the State Jewish Theater.

Today, Iaşi has a dwindling Jewish population of ca. 300 to 600 members, and one working synagogue which dates from the 1600s. There is also a Jewish community center serving kosher meals from a small cantina.

Outside of the city on top of a hill there is a large Jewish Cemetery which has graves dating from the late 1800s; burial records date from 1915 to the present day and are kept in the community center.

World War II

During the early part of World War II, Iaşi was the site of the largest massacre of Jews in Romania. During the war, while the full scale of the Holocaust remained generally unknown to the Allied Powers, the Iaşi pogrom stood as one of the known examples of Axis brutality toward the Jews.

The pogrom lasted from 29 June to 6 July 1941, and over 13,266 people, or one third of the Jewish population, was massacred in the pogrom itself or in its aftermath, and many were deported. The pogrom began as a diversionary tactic. Due to its proximity to the Soviet border, the city's Jewish population was accused of aiding the Bolsheviks, and promoted rumors among the general population that the Jews were anti-Romanian. The pretext for the pogrom included a minor Soviet air attack on the city on 26 June 1941, two days after Romanian and German forces attacked the Soviet Union.

After a second air attack two days later, the 14th Infantry Division, led by General Stavrescu declared its mission of eradicating "those who are aiding the enemy". In a telegram, Stavrescu wrote that the Russian aviators "had accomplices among the Judeo-communist suspects of Iaşi."[9] Under express orders from military dictator and German ally Ion Antonescu, the city was to be "cleansed" of its Jewish population. Orders also specified that Section Two of the General Headquarters of the Romanian Army and the Special Intelligence Service (SIS) of Romania were to spread rumors of Jewish treachery in the press, including ones that Jews were guiding Soviet military aircraft by placing lights in their houses' chimneys.[10]

A systematic massacre by the Iaşi police, Romanian and German soldiers, and a portion of the citizens of Iaşi followed and at least 8,000 Jews were killed; more than 5,000 Jews were loaded onto overcrowded, sealed "death trains" that drove slowly back and forth across the country in the hot summer weather until most of their passengers were killed by hyperthermia, thirst, or infection and bleeding.

Six Romanians of Iaşi are credited with saving around one hundred Jews (see Righteous Among the Nations).

In May 1944, Iaşi became the scene of ferocious fighting between Romanian-German forces and the advancing Soviet Red Army and the city was partially destroyed. The elite German Panzergrenadier Division Großdeutschland won an impressive defensive victory at the Battle of Târgul Frumos, a location near Iaşi. The battle was the object of several NATO studies during the Cold War. By July, Iaşi had been taken by Soviet forces.



The city of Iaşi lies on the Bahlui River, a tributary of the Jijia (tributary of the Prut). The surrounding country is one of uplands and woods, featuring the monasteries of Cetăţuia, Frumoasa, Galata (with nearby Nicolina mineral springs), and the dendrologic park of Repedea. Iaşi itself stands amid vineyards and gardens, partly on two hills, partly in the in-between valley. It is a common belief that Iaşi is built on seven hills (coline in Romanian): Cetăţuia, Galata, Copou-Aurora, Bucium-Păun, Şorogari, Repedea and Breazu, thus triggering comparisons with Rome.


Weather data for Iasi, Romania
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) -1
Average low °C (°F) -7
Precipitation mm (inches) 33
Source: [11] January 2009

Iaşi has a humid continental climate (Koppen climate classification "Dfb") with four distinct seasons. Summers are warm with temperatures sometimes exceeding 32 °C (90 °F) while winters are cold and windy with moderate snowfall and temperatures at night sometimes dropping below –10 °C (14 °F). Average monthly precipitation ranges from about 25 mm (1 in) in October to 100 mm (4 in) in June.


Panoramic view over Iaşi


The Union Square around 1915

With historical monuments, 500-year-old churches and monasteries, contemporary architecture, many of them listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Iaşi is an outstanding educational center, and preserves some beautiful pieces of architecture, such as the Trei Ierarhi Monastery and the neo-Gothic Palace of Culture.
During World War II and the Communist regime some historical buildings in the old city center (around Union Square area) were destroyed or demolished, and replaced by International style buildings and also a new mainly Mid-Century modern style Civic Centre was built around the Old Market Square (The Central Market).[12]

Other notable buildings:

  • Alexandru Ioan Cuza University main building, 1897, a mixture of the Neoclassical and Baroque styles, houses the famous Hall of the Lost Footsteps where one can admire the works of the painter Sabin Bălaşa;
  • "Vasile Alecsandri" National Theatre, built between 1894-1896 in Neoclassic style with Baroque and Rococo inspired painted and sculpted ornaments;
  • Metropolitan Cathedral, the largest Orthodox church in Romania, a late Renaissance style, with Baroque elements and Gheorghe Tattarescu paintings;[13]
  • Dosoftei House, a building from the second half of the 17th century in which in 1679, the metropolitan bishop Dosoftei settled the second typography in Moldavia. With three facades, arched and right-angled windows, the edifice was restored between 1966-1969. It houses the department of old literature of the Romanian Literature Museum;
  • Golia Monastery, 1564, rebuilt in 1650 in late-Renaissance style with Byzantine frescoes and intricately carved doorways, is a monumental construction, a monastery in the middle of the city, surrounded by tall walls, with corner turrets, and a 30 m height bell tower;
  • Roznovanu Palace (The City Hall), second half of the 18th century, rebuilt between 1830-1833, during World War I, it hosted the Romanian government;
  • Union Museum, beginning of the 19th century, Empire style, the palace served as the royal residence of Prince Al.I.Cuza between 1859-1862 and in 1917-1918, during the World War I, as the royal residence of king Ferdinand;
  • Great Sinagogue, built in 1670, is the oldest in Romania and second oldest in Europe;[13]
  • Pogor House, 1850, a meeting place for the city intellectuals, the headquarters of Literary Society Junimea (1863) and of the Convorbiri literare (Literary Interlocutions) magazine (1867), houses the Romanian Literature Museum;
  • Armenian Church, built in 1395, testifies the existence of an important Armenian community in these parts of Romania;
  • Luceafărul Theater, 1987, a unique modern building in Romania;
  • Old Catholic Cathedral, 1782, in Baroque style, and New Catholic Cathedral, 2005;
  • Central University Library, 1934, incorporates Greek Revival elements;
  • Iaşi Central Rail Station, 1870, inspired by Venetian Doge's Palace.


Bărboi Church, View from Golia Tower
Mihai Eminescu's statue and his Linden Tree in Copou Park

Iaşi is the seat of the Romanian Orthodox Metropolitan of Moldavia and Bukovina, and of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Iaşi. There are currently almost 10,000 Roman Catholics living in Iaşi.[14] There is a debate between historians as to whether the Catholics are originally of Romanian or Hungarian descent.[15]

The city houses more than 100 historical churches.[13] One of the oldest is Royal Saint Nicholas (1491), dating from the reign of Stephen the Great and the largest is the Metropolitan Cathedral; perhaps the finest, however, is the 17th century older metropolitan church, Trei Ierarhi, an example of Byzantine art, erected in 1635–1639 by Vasile Lupu, and adorned with countless gilded carvings on its outer walls and twin towers. Other examples of beautiful churches and monasteries, some surrounded by big walls, are: Galata (1582), Saint Sava (1583), Hlincea (1587), Bârnova (1603), Barnovschi (1627), Golia (1650), Cetăţuia (1668), Frumoasa (1726), Saint Spiridon (1747), Old Metropolitan Cathedral (1761), Bărboi (1843 with 18th century bell tower), Bucium (1853).[16]

Gardens and parks

Iaşi has a diverse array of public spaces, from city squares to public parks.

Begun in 1833, at the time when Iaşi was the capital of Moldavia, by Prince Mihail Sturdza and under the plans of Gheorghe Asachi and Mihail Singurov, Copou Park was integrated into the city and marks one of the first Romanian coordinated public parks. The oldest monument in Romania stands in the middle of the park, the Obelisk of Lions (1834), a 13.5 m (44-foot) tall obelisk, dedicated to the Law of Organic Rules, the first law on political, administrative and juridical organization in Romanian Principalities.[17]

Founded in 1856, the Botanical Garden of Iaşi, the first botanical garden in Romania, has an area of over 100 hectares, and more than 10,000 species of plants.

Iaşi Exhibition Park was opened in 1923 and built under the coordination of the architect N. Ghica Budeşti.

The Ciric Park, located in the north-eastern part of Iaşi is another complex which consists into the park and four lakes.

Cultural life

Major events in the political and cultural history of Moldavia are connected with the name of the city of Iaşi. The great scholars of the 17th century Grigore Ureche, Miron Costin and later Ion Neculce, wrote most of their works in the city or not far from it and the famous scholar Dimitrie Cantemir known throughout all Europe also linked his name to the capital of Moldavia.

The first newspaper in Romanian language was published in 1829 in Iaşi and it is in Iasi where, in 1867, appeared under literary society Junimea, the Convorbiri literare review in which Ion Creangă’s Childhood Memories and the best poems by Mihai Eminescu were published. The reviews Contemporanul and Viaţa Românească appeared in 1871, respectively in 1906 with great contributions to promoting Romanian national cultural values.

Many great personalities of Romanian culture are connected to Iasi: the chronicler Nicolae Milescu, the historians and politics men Mihail Kogălniceanu or Simion Bărnuţiu, the poets Vasile Alecsandri or George Topârceanu, the writers Mihail Sadoveanu, Alecu Russo, or Ionel Teodoreanu, the literary critic Titu Maiorescu, the historian A.D. Xenopol, the philosophers Vasile Conta or Petre Andrei, the sociologist Dimitrie Gusti, the geographer Emil Racoviţă, the painter Octav Băncilă, only to name a few.

Theatres and orchestras

National Theatre Vasile Alecsandri
Luceafărul Theatre

The "Vasile Alecsandri" National Theatre [1], opened in 1837 is the oldest National Theatre in Romania. The building, designed according to the plans of the Viennese architects Hermann Helmer and Ferdinand Fellner was built between 1894–1896, and also hosts starting 1956 the Iaşi Romanian Opera National Romanian Opera Iaşi.

Iaşi is also home to


Iaşi is home to many museums, memorial houses, art galleries.
First Memorial House from Romania opened in Iaşi in 1918 as Ion Creangă Memorial House, and today the Iaşi Romanian Literature Museum owns twelve memorial houses. The Mihai Eminescu Museum is situated in Copou Park and it is dedicated to the great poet’s life and creation.

The Theatre Museum, opened in 1976, at the celebration of 160 years since the first theatrical performance in Romanian, illustrates the development of the theatrical phenomenon since the beginning, important moments of the history of Iaşi National Theatre, the foundation, in 1840, of the Philharmonic-dramatic Conservatoire, prestigious figures that have contributed to the development of the Romanian theatre.

The Union Museum, includes original pieces and documents which belonged to prince Al. I. Cuza and his family.

The Natural History Museum, founded on 4 February 1834, is the first museum of this kind in Romania with over 300,000 items, the most valuable being the collections of insects, mollusk, amphibians, reptiles, birds, plants and minerals.

Four other museums are located in the Palace of Culture, The Art Museum has the largest art collection in Romania, with more than 8,000 paintings, out of which 1,000 belong to the national and universal patrimony, The Moldavia's History Museum, offers more than 35,000 objects from various fields, archaeology, numismatics, decorative art, ancient books, documents, The Ethnographic Museum of Moldavia owns more than 11,000 objects depicting the Romanian advance through the ages and The Science and Technology Museum with five distinct sections and one memorial house.

Foreign culture centres

Iaşi hosts five cultural centres: French, German, British, Latin American & Caribbean and Hellenic.

Periferic Biennial

Periferic is an international biennial of contemporary art organized in Iaşi, Romania by the Vector Association. Eight editions have taken place thus far.



Iaşi is an important economic centre in Romania. The local and regional economy relies on public sector institutions and establishments.

The most important sectors are related to health care, education, research, culture, government, tourism and manufacturing. It is active in metallurgical production, pharmaceutical industry, textiles and clothing, constructions, banking, wine, preserved meat.

The city is an important IT sector centre, with software companies and two universities that provide high quality graduate engineers.

Iaşi is also a well developed commercial city with many shopping malls and commercial centres.

Largest employers

Top 10 Employers in Iasi - 2009 [18]
Company Industry Employees
"St. Spiridon" University Hospital Health Care 2,140
"Al. I. Cuza" University High Education 2,040
"Gh. Asachi" Technical University High Education 1,800
RATP Public Transport 1,536
"St. Maria" Clinic Children Hospital Health Care 1,514
Fortus SA Heavy Industry 1,473
Antibiotice SA Pharmaceutical Industry 1,414
CET Energy & Heating Industry 1,400
"Gr. T. Popa" University of Medicine and Pharmacy High Education 1,344
ApaVital SA Water Industry 1,044


Historical population of Iasi
Year Population
18th century ~30,000[19]
1831 59,880[19]
1859 65,745[19]
1912 75,229[20]
1930 census 102,872
1948 census 96,075
1966 census 161,023
1977 census 265,002
1992 census 344,425
2002 census 320,888
2007 estimate 315,214[21]
Roznovanu Palace (1823) today Iaşi City Hall

According to the last Romanian census from 2002 there were 109,357 housing units and 320,888 people living within the city of Iaşi, making it the second largest city in Romania. Additionally there are 60,000 more residents (mostly students) and thousands of daily commuters.

Of this population, 98.1% are ethnic Romanians, while 1.2 % are ethnic Roma and 0.7% others.

In terms of religion, 92.5% of the population are Christian Orthodox, 4.9% Roman Catholic, other religious groups 2.6%.

As of January 1, 2009, 308,843 inhabitants live within the city limits,[1] a decrease from the figure recorded at the 2002 census.

Iaşi Metropolitan Area has a combined estimated population of 400,347, an area of 787 km² and includes the municipality of Iaşi and 13 other nearby communities.


"Al. I. Cuza" University
"Gr. T. Popa" University of Medicine and Pharmacy and the Union Monument

The first institute of higher learning that functioned on the territory of Romania was Academia Vasiliană (1640) founded by Prince Vasile Lupu as a "higher school for Latin and Slavonic languages", followed by the Princely Academy in 1707.

The first high education structure in Romanian language was established in the autumn of 1813, when engineer Gheorghe Asachi laid the foundations of a class of engineers, its activities taking place within the Greek Princely Academy.

After 1813, other moments marked the development of higher education in Romanian language, regarding both humanities and the technical science. In 1835, Academia Mihăileană founded by Prince Mihail Sturdza is considered first Romanian superior institute in the country.

In 1860, three faculties part of the Academia Mihăileană formed the nucleus for the newly-established University of Iaşi, the first Romanian university.

A society of physicians and natural historians has existed in Iaşi since the early part of the 19th century, and a number of periodicals are published. One of the oldest medical universities in Romania, founded in 1879, is in Iaşi. It is now known as the Grigore T. Popa University of Medicine and Pharmacy.

In 1937, the two applied science sections of the University of Iaşi became departments of the newly created Gheorghe Asachi Polytechnic School. In the period before and after World War II, the later (renamed Polytechnic Institute in 1948) extended its domain of activity, especially in the field of engineering, and became adopted a Technical University in 1993.

Public Universities:

"Mihai Eminescu" Central University Library of Iaşi

Besides the universities, there are schools of art and music.

The Central University Library of Iaşi, where the chief records of Romanian history are preserved, is the oldest and the second largest in Romania.


Iaşi is home to at least 15 public hospitals, including the St. Spiridon Hospital, the second largest and one of the oldest in Romania,[22] St. Maria Children's Hospital, Socola Psychiatric University Hospital and Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases.



Central Railroad Station (1870)

Three train stations, Central Rail Station, Nicolina International Rail Station and Socola Rail Station serve the city and are operated by Romanian Railways (CFR). Moldovan railway also serves these stations for travel into Moldova.

The Iaşi Central Rail Station, located about 1.5 km to the city centre, provides direct rail connections to all the major Romanian cities and to Chişinău. The rail stations are very well connected to all the parts of the city by the trams, and buses of the local public transport company, RATP.


Iaşi Airport Terminal

Iasi is served by the Iaşi International Airport (IAS) located 8 km east of the city centre. The airport has nonstop flights to and from Bucharest, Budapest, Timisoara and Vienna.


Iaşi is connected to European route E85/E583 with Bucharest through a four lane express road. It is also planned a East-West freeway connection Romanian Motorway A4 to Romanian Motorway A3 (also known as "Transylvania Motorway"). The Iaşi Coach Station is used by several private transport companies to provide coach connections from Iaşi to a large number of locations from all over the country.

Public transport

RATP (the local public transport company) provides public transit within the Iaşi city and operates an extensive network using 150 trams (electric trams began operating in Iasi in 1898) and 100 buses. In the first 3 months of 2007 the RATP carried 11,365,819 passengers, an average of 128,000 passengers per day.[23]


International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Iaşi is twinned with:


See: List of people from Iaşi




  1. ^ a b "Populaţia stabilă la 1.01.2009" (in Romanian). INSSE. May 19, 2009. Retrieved May 20, 2009.  
  2. ^ Tourism - About Iasi
  3. ^ History of Education in Romania
  4. ^ Metropolitan Area Iasi (Romanian)
  5. ^ Museum Documentation Center Croatia, A Tractate on the Roman Milestone Discovered near Osijek
  6. ^ Columbia University, Orbis Latinus - entry for Jassium
  7. ^ a b Orașul Iași: monografie istorică și socială(Romanian)
  8. ^ citation needed
  9. ^ Braham, Randolph "The destruction of Romanian and Ukrainian Jews During the Antonescu Era" Pages 63-85
  10. ^ United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
  11. ^ "Monthly Averages for Iasi, Romania". The Weather Channel. Retrieved 2009-02-09.  
  12. ^ The historical and architectural Iaşi
  13. ^ a b c St. Paraskeve Pilgrimage Centre
  14. ^ "Recensământ 2002". Retrieved 2009-06-25.  
  15. ^ "Mother, teacher, nurse. The role of women in society and church according to Hungarian-speaking young Catholics in Romania | Pax Romana ICMICA/MIIC". 2007-10-14. Retrieved 2009-07-26.  
  16. ^ Churches & monasteries
  17. ^ The oldest monument in Romania
  18. ^ Top 10 angajatori (Romanian)
  19. ^ a b c [Universitatea Al.I.Cuza Iaşi Ed. Litera, Bucureşti 1971, pag.9-10](Romanian)
  20. ^ A Handbook of Roumania
  21. ^ Romania in Cifre-2008 (Romanian)
  22. ^ St.Spiridon Hospital History (Romanian)
  23. ^ RATP public transit site (Romanian)

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Palace of Culture exterior
Palace of Culture exterior

Iaşi (pronounced "yash") is the second largest city in Romania, after Bucharest. It has a population of just under half a million people; swelling greatly when the town's several universities are in session.


It is said that, like Rome, Iasi lies on seven hills. Some of these hills have conspicuous churches perched on top, each of which warrants a different view of the city. Iasi looks green from above in spite of the ubiquitous brick and concrete due to its boulevards and gardens. Ancient churches, old European style houses and communist apartment buildings compete for space in this crowded city, which is constantly expanding into the surrounding villages; The urban rush of communism replaced houses, pigs,chickens and cherry trees with apartment buildings. The land was confiscated from the peasants and they received apartments as compensation in the newly created common living spots. Factories sprung around the intensive urban effort, organized together in the industrial zone, only to be abandoned two generations later with the fall of the regime which gave them and the nation purpose. Like all communities in the former soviet block, Iasi had to reinvent itself in 1989. The children of those who left the countryside to move to the city now strive to build houses on the outskirting villages, although they drive hondas and not horses. They are not peasants. They wear jeans and french perfume, but they plant grapes and onions and have begun to enjoy the freedoms of having a house like their grandparents had but their parents moved away from. In Iasi you will find both simplicity and sophistication, and interminable ironies as the reinvention process progress on its own. There are still peasants selling fresh produce in the markets, but their kids may have cell phones which cost 100$. In Iasi, the landscape changes fast, motivated by psychological and economical turmoil.

Get in

By plane

Iaşi has a small international airport (code IAS). It is served by several airlines:

The airport is about 8km from the city center. The only transportation to the city is by taxi. A metered taxi to the center of Iaşi should cost no more than about RON 15–20; it's not unheard of for them to try and get away with charging upwards of €10. Most city taxis have meters; insist that they use it. The metered rate is 2 RON per kilometre outside city limits and 1.8 RON per kilometre inside them.

If arriving from another country, bear in mind that there are no currency exchange outlets at Iaşi airport. There is an ATM outside the building. Since taxi drivers accept RON, not euro or other currencies, you will need to be able to withdraw money from this ATM or arrive in Iaşi with RON.

By train

It is well connected by train with Bucharest. The train station is quite close to the center, you can go walking.

You can also take direct trains from Budapest, which is well linked to Western Europe.

A train ticket from Iaşi to Bucharest costs around 20 euros when using the most expensive and luxurious option, the inter-city called Sageata Albastra (Blue Arrow).

By car

There are a couple of possibilities to reach Iaşi from all over the country on national roads. Recently these roads have been improved and are not blocked by traffic jams. To reach Iaşi from Bucharest usually takes five to six hours by car. Although the situation has been steadily improving, it is crucial to have a map in order to reach Iasi from Bucharest without having to stop and ask for directions. The locals know which turns to take - there aren't many, but they are not marked with large arrows as they are in the United States.

By bus

Romania is criss-crossed by many "mini buses", sometimes called "maxi taxi". They are faster than the trains, and can be taken directly from the international airport in Bucharest.

Get around

On foot

Iasi is a rather large, densely packed town. You can walk it in a few hours. For the curious visitor, walking is the best way to get around.

By taxi

taxis are quite popular in Iasi, and have recently switched to universal yellow. In Iasi, locals sometimes take the taxi which they find most appealing, not necessarily the first in line, so if you really like some brand of car you can chose that taxi. This practice is becoming less common, however.

By maxi-taxi

maxi taxis go pretty much everywhere you could go on public transportation. They are privately operated, smaller, usually white micro-buses. They have their endpoint destination written on a paper at the front and they follow a usual route. They do not accept foreign currency, and don't expect the maxi-taxi drivers to speak english well enough to tell you where to get off; you could write your destination on a piece of paper, point and ask.

By bus, tram or trolley

These methods of transportation were traditionally very important for getting around Iasi, especially during the communist period and afterwards, before cars became commonplace. Buses are often imported from abroad after the respective country upgrades, so you can find a large variety of buses.

If you go in the middle of the trolley buses, you can stand in the circle which turns (trolleys in Romania refer to the buses with two large ams which reach up towards two power lines. Otherwise they look just like a bus, but they are always long and have two halves which can move with respect to each other. Kids enjoy going in the middle, because sometimes it spins and takes you by surprise) If you are lucky, you will see the trolley operator have to get out of the trolley, go out into the street, and put one of the power arms back up to the lines from which it has fallen. This happens fairly rarely, but it's entertaining.

There is a special tram that goes up and down Copou hill. It is older and it's a different style from the normal trams, resembling the San Francisco ones somewhat.

The main reason to go in public transportation is to witness regular people going about their business. Everyone goes on the public transportation. This is a good place to see beggars performing. If you're on a bus, it's fairly likely that some group of little kids will get on and start singing. They are usually gypsies singing traditional romanian songs, and some of them are rather gifted. They want you to give them money, of course.

Iasi is a small city, however. You could use the public transport to go around, but most of the interesting parts of the city are in the center, so you can go walking. You need the bus if you want to go outside the city to see something or because you found an accommodation there.

  • The Communist buildings
  • National Theatre "Vasile Alecsandri", with an exceptional interior designed by one of the most popular architects from Vienna at the beginning of the 19th century.
  • Palace of Culture

The Palace of Culture is one of those giant obvious monuments that the locals take for granted but which is striking to visitors. It houses several infrequently visited museums, including a musical instrument museum and a "village" museum with ethnic outfits. Currently closed for restauration.

  • Bulevardul Stefan Cel Mare (si Sfint) (Steven the Great ((and the Holy)) Boulevard)

Along it you will find the Metropolitan Church, the Trei Ierarhi Church, the Palace of Culture and the National Theatre. If you go on this boulevard in the winter, you will find an impressive set of light decorations. During the weekends, the boulevard is closed to traffic and contains rollerbladers, bikers and strollarounders. On Sundays, the National Theatre park fills up with icons and naive paintings,which one can buy for rather small prices.

  • Bulevardul Copou (Copou Boulevard)

Copou is a large hill in Iasi, which contains a university, a botanical garden and many old, fancy houses. Rose bushes line its sides, and there are many parks and old trees scattered between the buildings. It's a popular place to go for a walk, and for locals it is considered the rich area. Head onto the side streets for the quietest, serenest part of Iasi

  • Copou Park

This tame, bench and rosebush laden park is a popular destination for youth in heat and the contemplative elderly. It's a pretty park, and you should not put your feet on the benches (you might get fined). There are several large bushes through which you can walk, and an extremely old linden tree held up by metal bars. Linden trees are well appreciated in Iasi, and this particular tree is the most famous because the beloved romanian poet Mihai Eminescu allegedly wrote poems in its inspirational shade. In front of this linden tree, there are two large patches of bright blue forget-me-not flowers.

  • Botanical Garden

The botanical garden is high up on Copou hill, and it's a popular summer getaway. In the fall, the walnut trees drop walnuts which you can eat, and some people go to the garden to find these.

  • Sala Pasilor Pierduti (The Hall of the Lost Steps)

The Al. I. Cuza university in Copou houses an exquisite hallway, in which you can get lost in poetic reverie. The hallway is empty, long and narrow, and its walls are covered with large paintings that allude to T.S.Eliot's Wasteland and have an intensely epic, allegorical and dreamy character. A lonely guardwatch protects the hallway, and the door is heavy, with small windows that let the light trickle in through dust. It is a lonely place, yet while school is in season it is tread by thousands of steps every day, which only make it lonelier. You might also want to explore the rest of the building. A piece of advice: freeing your mind from the confines of Euclidean geometry won't make it any easier to find your way through the place, but you will feel less frustrated when you find out you've changed floors just by crossing a seemingly level hallway. The classrooms use both the Arab and the Roman numbering system, which makes it hell when you're late for an exam, and learned men all agree that the third floor dissapears during full moon. You have been warned.

Churches and Monasteries

It is said that if you throw a rock in Iasi, you will break a church window. Despite the fact that Communism outlawed religion, Iasi is replete with churches and monasteries. Many of them are beautiful. The majority are of Eastern Orthodox denomination, however, they are richly decorated and sometimes surrounded by lush gardens. As you walk by, imagine the churches a hundred years ago as the centers of farming, peasant communities; the fruit bearing trees and domains around the church supported the clergy and nuns. In Iasi, the priests knock on every door at least once a year to sanctify your apartment for the new year in exchange for money. It is considered inappropriate not to open the door. When you enter a church, you can make the cross symbol on the doorstep; remove your hat, and don't wear any short skirts. On Sunday, sermon is sometimes held outside the church, broadcast by a loudspeaker, because inside there are few or no chairs. If you are extremely lucky, you will visit a church on the day of its 100 year anniversary. This is the only day in which women are allowed in the altar; Don't worry if you don't speak romanian, you won't have to say anything. There are no easy ways of finding out when these anniversaries occur, so if you really want to do this look up the dates when churches were first built.

  • Trei Ierarhi Church This church is completely covered in carvings. The church was once covered in gold, which was burned away to be stolen. Trei Ierarhi is frequently under construction. The atmosphere inside is musky and friendly, typical of East Orthodox churches. It contains several chandeliers with decorative ostrich eggs.
  • Metropolitan Church Be careful not to wear short skirts in this chuuch. The elderly are quite protective of in-church propriety. If you go in the summer, you'll enjoy vast rose bushes all around the grounds of the church. If you're thirsty, there is a water fountain at one end of the courtyard. There are always beggers at the entrance of this church, which is one of the most profitable for beggers in Iasi. Locally, this church is called "Metropolia". Metropolia contains the remains of "Saint Paraschiva", an important local saint. If you like chaos and celebrations, go to Iasi from 12-16 of October of any year. The city floods with peasants and religious pilgrims from Romania and abroad. The city completely changes during this period, and the Stefan cel Mare boulevard is almost impossible to walk through.
  • Golia Monastery This monastery is surrounded with thick fat walls and has a prominent tower; you can climb to the summit; It is located in "Targul Cucului" = "the Coockoo's market", which is right in the middle of the city in a very busy intersection. The constrasting serenity within the walls is almost unbelievable.
Golia Monastery
Golia Monastery
  • Frumoasa Monastery This monastery is in Nicolina, farther form downtown and amidst communist buildings; You can recognise the monastery by the metal roof.
  • Rich Gypsy Houses The term rich gypsy may seem an oxymoron, and perhaps for this reason the few opulent gypsy mansions are worth seeking out. Unfortunately, they are not on maps. However, there are several on a street going from the main train station towards the smaller train station (Nicolina). There is a street which follows the railroad tracks very closely. Walk on this street, and you will see at least one such house. Gypsy houses are striking in contrast with Romanian houses. They are covered in sparkly, glittery materials. Their walls might be completely covered in metal, and have metal decorations which have questionable aesthetic but much cultural value. If you see a shiny metal house, it's a gypsy house.
  • Extremely poor gypsy/romanian housing areas There are still pigs in Iasi, though not as many as in Bucharest area. There are also chickens and cultivated vegetables, sometimes extremely close to downtown. If you really want to find them, you could break onto the roof of a communist building and look in every direction. Pick out the greenest looking hill (these houses have plants) and walk there. Alternatively, you can go south of the Tatarasi neighborhood.
  • Abandoned summer theatre Sandwiched between the Children's theater, the Palace of Culture and the Strand lie the ruins of a poetic outdoor theater; The fences and gates are not difficult to bypass, and beyond them you will find a small kingdom ruled by stray dogs; The place radiates from the past, glowing with white benches and dirt; it is covered in leaves, surrounded by trees, and sheltered from unruly eyes;
  • Releu - an ancient sea bed "Releu" refers to a large antenna in general, but in Iasi there is a particular one which you'll be directed to if you ask locals. The Releu is a popular picnic spot, and offers a gorgeous view of the city. It is located in a strange area, which is half village half French Riviera; This means that peasants, cows, chickens and dogs still live here, but that some of the properties are being bought by rich Europeans and converted into villas. The two ways to get to the Releu are by maxi-taxi and by taxi.

The taxi or maxi-taxi will leave you at the edge of the street, and you'll probably feel like you're in full blown countryside. Look for the giant antenna, and go to its base. You'll have to walk on dirt roads, but it's pretty. From the antenna, look around, and you should be able to find a crevasse (it's really rather large, like a semicircular cut in the hillside). You can see some caverns dug into the side of the hill. Go down into the semicircular cut (it's an easy walk) and go up to the wall. You can see many shells and remains of a calcarous ancient sea bed which used to cover the entire area. If you're adventurous, you can find caves in the area, some of which are quite large. There are ancient legends that tell of the locals running away from invaders in these caves and sheltering their riches. Most of the locals believe the caves to be fictitious, but they do really exist.

  • Go swim in the locals' dippin' spots In the summer, Iasi experiences extreme droughts and relentless heat, so the locals escape to swimming holes. The most popular one was the "Strand", which was an outdoor swimming pool in the middle of the city. The pool has been relocated as a big real estate project called Palas started to be built in the area. Some people also swim in the Ciric and Venetia lakes and river which lie north of the city. These are lakes, not swimming pools; there is no lifeguard, but there also are no rules. check the bottom depth before taking a plunge. Also, the water is full of strange microorganisms and who knows what else...the local kids seem to be all right, but two-headed fish have been seen in the Ciric lake more than once. You can also swim in the botanical garden, in the pool at the bottom of the hill.
  • Visit the Coca Cola bottling plant The Coca Cola bottling plant lies at an extremity of Iasi, and is surrounded by relicts of the Industrial Zone; If you can, schedule a tour and you will not be disappointed; You might have to be persuasive and figure out loopholes, but ten years ago the plant allowed school children to visit en masse, and they had a room equipped for the purpose of coca cola indoctrination; Coca Cola, like many other western products, went from a trickle to an effluvium, inundating all aspects of post communist society. You can buy coca cola everywhere, although it tastes different from the American variety.
  • Visit ANY power plant you are allowed to Admission has been denied, but the situation changes frequently. If you're lucky, you could visit the clothing and shoe-making factory (at the Tesatura intersection, next to Podu Ros towards the industrial zone), the sewage treatment plant, the bread and pasta factory (the pasta more or less drips from a balcony onto an assembly line below).
  • Iaşi is famous for its nightlife. If you go towards the University you will find a lot of students wondering around or having a beer.
  • Most popular discos and clubs are full until morning during during University periods. Check out the discos "Faraon", "Byblos" and "Viper" even though there are much more that are popular.
  • If you are looking for something to read, there are two bookstores in Piata Unirii, in the center. Junimea has several books in French, while Libreria Humanitas has some books in English. It has its own website too:
  • Go to the Mall! (which is close to Podu Ros, along the Bahlui river). This mall is rather elegant, and houses several eateries which are european-priced and far from traditional romanian food, but if you're out to spend money this is as good a place as any;
  • the Bazar! This is a purchasing junkyard, curiously popular with the locals. Most of the stuff sold here is reminiscent of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, and is probably produced in the same Chinese factories. The Bazar is underneath the land bridge which connects Podu Ros to Nicolina. You can find jeans, sneakers, plastic toys and trinkets of all varieties here.
  • Pizza Pazzo, Bd. Tudor Vladimirescu. Nice atmosphere and Italian cuisine located in the student district of Tudor Vladimirescu. Reservation might be necessary as the place is vivid and full of customers almost every evening. Occasionally you might get lucky to try their lasagna, although a parmigiana plate is also a good choice beside pizza. Serve with draught beer and be there with friends.  edit
  • Phenicia, Str. Sulfinei, nr. 13. Lebanese restaurant with moderate prices. This would be the place you'd want to make a nice impression by getting out to an exotic cuisine, though Lebanese might not be that rich in options.  edit
  • Cucina Casalinga, Costache Negri nr.60. Italian restaurant with very good pastas and pizzas, located behind Moldova Mall shopping center. Prices are mid-range to splurge. No credit cards.  edit
  • Aad's Place, Bd Carol 48, [1]. Restaurant and fast food with Dutch specific, located in the Super Copou complex close to M. Eminescu Park. They serve good Dutch pancakes either salted or sweet and are non-smokers friendly.  edit
  • Belvedere, Sos. Bucium 103A. Small cozy restaurant with a lovely terrace on the exit to Vaslui. Food is good and prices are budget to mid-range. Occasionally you will be disappointed that the kitchen is closed. No credit cards.  edit
  • Restaurant Bar Baron - Str. Sfantu Lazar 52. It's beyond the Culture Palace. You have to walk for a while, but the pub is very nice and they serve good beer and good food for reasonable prices. You may want to give this place a miss unless you want to be in the company of some very dodgy local characters. There are plenty of decent nosheries in the center of the town, no need to stray this far for utterly forgettable food and bad company.
  • Restaurant Monte Carlo - Fd. Codrescu 5, near the Al. I. Cuza University. A quiet, not very well-known restaurant with a lovely ambiance, serving both international and traditional food for reasonable prices.
  • Sage is a place you don't want to miss. It is located in the old "Mihai Eminescu Library" building and it has lots of tea sortiments from all over the world. There's also newspapers and books you can read, a piano and social games that you can borrow for free. The personnel also speaks english and, when the owner is in, people have been known to get freebies. Very nice atmosphere.
  • Hand is a 19th century house converted into an intimate, rock-oriented bar. Head from Piata Unirii to the railway station, following the tramway tracks (take the left turn when they bifurcate) and you'll soon find it.
  • Clubul Presei (The Press Club) is situated in the basement of the Gulliver Block (first tall building on the Stefan cel Mare boulevard starting from Piata Unirii), on the side opposite to the main street. Look for the yellow door with the ramp leading to it. Though not exactly a metal bar, it's a meeting point for metalheads and other alternative types, since it serves some of the best mulled wine in Iasi. You might want to stick to the small serving, though. It can make you much tipsier than you'd think. If you want to play it safe, go for their special, brandy-and-whipped cream hot chocolate. Oh, and try to avoid the toilets. If you've lived in, or traveled extensively through Eastern Europe you've seen much worse, but there's still no need to subject yourself to that mess.
  • Iasi Apartments, Cuza Voda 33 bis (City Centre), +40746067979, [2]. checkin: 14.00; checkout: 12.00. Iasi Apartments is an alternative for Hotels/ hostels in Iasi. Location: all apartments are in the city center. Facilities: AC,internet, Cable, TV, equipped kitchen, own bathroom ( with shower ). Studios are about EUR 25.00 to EUR 35.00 depending on the length of the stay. 25-35 EUR.  edit
  • Hotel Turistic Casa Bucovineana ** - Str. Cuza Voda 30. Tel./Fax 0232 222913, website It's a cheap hostel, compared to the standards of Iaşi. A single room is 70 RON/night while a double room is 100 RON/night, all with a shared toilet. The place is not very nice, you can also feel the vibrations of the tram passing on the main street, but you are in the very center of the city and in each room you have TV and a DVD player.
  • Hotel Sport - Str. Sf. Lazar 76. Double room with shower 101 RON/night, no singles. A bit dodgy, but not altogether dismal. TV in each room. Located up a little allyway next to the Sala Polivalenta sport complex, take bus number 41 or 28 and get off at Sala Sporturilor.
  • Hotel Continental, Strada Cuza Voda. Single room with bath is 170 RON.
  • Grand Hotel TRAIAN Unirii Square. This is "the" posh hotel in town. It is located in a recently refurbished building of XIX th century, an architectural masterpiece of French architect Gustave Eiffel that was inaugurated in 1882 as the "Traian Grand" Hotel. Prices are moderate compared to the luxury you get, ranging from 130 euro for a double to 350 euro for the royal apartment.
  • Hotel Astoria - Str. Lapusneanu 1, next to Piata Uniri. The mid-range business replica of Traian. One double room is 250 RON/night.

Stay safe

Pickpockets are a problem in Iasi. Pickpockets don't advertise their strategies, but you should keep your money in a travel pouch tied around your neck and on the inside of a shirt if you want to be confident of its safety. Pickpockets are mainly around the main train station area, and target mostly people with lots of luggage, especially when trams/busses are full.

The best strategy is always check for suspicious groups of persons around you and just move if you see them surrounding you. Don't argue with them or start a fight if you find them with a hand in your pocket. Don't call someone out on their pickpocketing; chances are that you will not get the crowd rallied in your favor and you might cause an unnecessary aggravation for yourself. Simply leave.

Do not go to the train station area at night if you want to avoid visible hints of prostitution.

Beggars can be persistent; remember, just because someone is begging doesn't necessarily mean the person is truthfully poor or as disabled as it appears. Judge for yourself. If a gipsy approaches you trying to read your palm, guess your fate in a shell, etc., don't be surprised if you encounter hostility. Don't worry, you will probably not be attacked.

Try to travel in the well-lit areas at night, which allow you plenty of mobility. Iasi is a lot cleaner and feels a lot safer now than it did ten years ago, as if the questionable nightlife has become muted.

Don't antagonize packs of stray dogs. If you are being followed by dogs, don't be aggressive; they're probably doing their own thing; however, if you find yourself threatened, do not run away. Indtead, yell, throw rocks, try to kick, etc., but don't take away their food.

This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!

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